Monday, April 8, 2013

#ReaditMD13 - The Gender Gap 'Boy Books and Girl Books'

Old-fashioned stereotyping or shrewd marketing?
We're hoping you missed us a teeny weeny bit while we took a blog break (once again I'm in awe of anyone who can manage a blog and their kids at the same time). But we're now back and we're cracking straight on with our #ReadItMummiesandDaddies2013 campaign theme weeks.

This week we thought we'd tackle the thorny subject of 'girl' books and 'boy' books. It's a controversial piece of marketing that creeps into books just as it does into other forms of entertainment or pastimes for children and it's one that's about as welcome as Darth Vader in a kissing booth. 

It's easy to see why such divisions are still promoted and still regularly happen. A subtle tweak, a colour change and you can double your market share with books that look 'tailored' to their audience. 

As we've all too often seen though, the division goes deeper than just colour, reinforcing stereotypes that parents would rather had stayed back in Victorian times. Quaint ideas that only boys like dinosaurs, while girls are quite happy making things or cooking. 

At home, we regularly find that despite our best efforts, well-meaning friends and family unintentionally subvert our attempts to ensure that Charlotte gets a good spread of books that are non-gender specific. Sometimes though it does feel like no one actually asks her what she likes or what she's into and just imagines that all girls (including Charlotte) will love the frilly pink cutesy stories when they'd probably have a shock if they saw the sort of books she regularly pulls from her shelves and demands to have read to her again and again. 

Like all kids, boy or girl, she changes her mind as often as the wind changes direction and that's why it saddens me when I hear stories from other parents - or from the lovely book folk we've met through this blog who regularly encounter the gender gap not only being fed but actually encouraged and reinforced. The bizarre notion that boys will be less 'effective' as alpha males if they dare read the likes of Alice in Wonderland or anything even remotely cute, or for that matter featuring a strong female lead character rather than some rough and tumble boy. 

The flip side is also that there are parents who are quite happy for their little girl to read nothing but the frilly pink stuff. On Twitter, it's quite interesting to note the effect on a company who dares put out a set of blue and pink toys, activities or books - and how quickly those companies attempt to either justify their actions or back down so the question is, why do it in the first place? We're back to marketing again...

We aim to encourage parents to read to their children with our campaign, but sometimes you also have to also hope with all your heart that they're going to read the right stuff, and leave books that negatively reinforce these stereotypes exactly where they are.